Everyone that has ever heard of ECET2NJPA, calls it the alphabet conference, but those who truly understand it, know that it represents Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. It’s a dynamic convening of over 200 educators from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with guest speakers from across the United States.

Yet, what many do not realize, is that it’s a heartfelt appreciation conference where being an educator is viewed as the greatest profession in the world (something that is often forgotten in NJ).

The energy from Saturday morning until later Sunday afternoon was radioactive/highly contagious, and got the blood pumping to rock the return to the classroom.

Several months ago, Barry Saide, a brilliant writer, a great educator and true friend, presented me with an unexpected request. He wanted me to be the opening keynote, and was hopeful that I would provide the crowd with something unconventional. It had to be, as this was a conference where teachers were recognized for their outstanding passion for students, and I was an administrator (Principal/Soon to be Superintendent). Why would a group of teachers want to even be in the same room as an administrator during a free weekend event away from their families?

The answer was simple: Show them that relationships between the teachers union and the administration is one of the biggest keys to school success. It’s about the relationships, people before programs mindset, risk taking culture and a positive climate of respect. It could and can be done at their schools too. The opening keynote was to be a co-keynote: 1 teacher and 1 administrator sharing the stage. The theme was based on the way I work with my staff and from Dr. Tony Sinanis’ blog post, Dear Sucky Administrator.

So what is usually the typical reaction when an administrator walks the halls or enters a classroom? Teachers run, hide, or straighten up because, they were often in the presence of Darth Vader. Yes, I know some of you probably hum the Imperial March song when an administrator is seen. Why? Because so many of them would rather have the school divided: us versus them, instead of let’s do this TOGETHER.

The goal was to kick start the keynote with my teacher extraordinaire, Mrs. Lisa Carlton, talking to other teachers, and I was to walk in dressed in a Darth Vader outfit (Thank you Nick Diaz). While there was a brief moment of technical and wardrobe malfunctions at the start, we were able to move forward in sharing our message.

Our hysterical but truthful Google Slides would help to demonstrate so many of the reasons why schools fail students and staff, and it was our goal to display it in a comical manner.

Stop working against each other and watch the magic that unfolds when you work together. Don’t just take my word for it. Feel free to ask all the teachers and students that have worked along side me during my administrative years. WE ALWAYS WORKED TO BUILD SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR ALL STUDENTS AND STAFF.

Thank you Barry Saide and the dedicated team members of the NJPAECET2 Team for allowing Lisa and I to be involved in such an amazing weekend!

If you ever need someone to bounce ideas off of, or simple need to talk, never hesitate to reach out, as we are in this business TOGETHER! Also don’t forget to continue the conversations and relationships made each Sunday night at 8pm Eastern time at #ECET2.

Which are you?